Early Voting Begins and Another Constitutional Amendment to Consider

Early voting for the December 5 runoff election starts tomorrow and continues through November 28. And just when you thought you had voted on all of the constitutional amendments, guess what, there’s one more to take a look at it. Beyond that, there are several notable local and regional runoffs and a big contest to fill the open seat in the Fifth Congressional District. Here’s our analysis of that new constitutional amendment, passed by the Legislature in the most recent special session.

Amendment #1 Higher Education Management Boards

What it Does: If passed this amendment would allow individuals living out of state to serve on Louisiana higher education management boards.

Public postsecondary institutions in Louisiana are governed by four management boards overseeing four distinct college and university systems: the LSU System, the Southern University System, the University of Louisiana System, and the Louisiana Community & Technical College System.

The members of each of those management boards are selected by the governor using criteria that is outlined in the constitution. It prescribes that each board is comprised of 15 members, two from each of the state’s six Congressional districts and the remaining three appointed “from the state at large.”

If this amendment passes, it would continue to require that at least one of those at-large appointees to each board come from within the state, but it would allow the two other at-large appointees to come from out of state if the governor so chooses.

Comment: According to information from the Louisiana Board of Regents, 30 states allow some form of out-of-state appointments to their college managing boards. The national Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges considers the “modest” appointment of out-of-state members to postsecondary governing boards a best practice, saying that “doing so can provide institutions with access to individuals with important expertise.”

That, in fact, is the rationale given by supporters of this amendment who say its passage would allow boards to benefit from the large pool of Louisiana postsecondary alumni who now live in other states. This was highlighted during legislative testimony on this amendment.

Supporters used the example of the late Lod Cook, an LSU alumnus and former Chairman of the Board of the oil giant ARCO. Though he was a lifelong supporter of LSU and provided the lead gift for construction of the Lod Cook Alumni Center and Cook Hotel on the LSU campus, he was unable to serve on the LSU Board of Supervisors because he lived out of state. The legislation that would implement this amendment if passed is called the Lod Cook Act.

Even with the passage of this amendment, there would be no requirement that the governor appoint any board members from out of state. It would simply be an option and the appointee would still require Senate confirmation. The amendment passed the Legislature without opposition.

The practice of appointing out-of-state members to university boards is not unusual as many states allow it for at least some of their boards and eight states seem to permit it for all boards.

Given the fact that there are many alumni of Louisiana universities living across the country who might be able to offer unique expertise and tap into larger networks of financial support for higher education, CABL believes this amendment deserves support.

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